First a bit of background that has not appeared in our articles about Lottomatica/Gtech/SpieloG2/Finsoft etc. in either the Peeling the Onion series – where we have documented the history of GTECH – or our Unsavory Reports section where some commentary has been published about actions and inaction by GTECH in regards to alleged cheating games provided by one of their wholly owned subsidiaries.
For some reason the multi-billion dollar corporation, Lottomatica keeps changing the names of its subsidiaries and has renamed itself as one of its subsidiaries so researching any issue involving them can be difficult, but not impossible. Unless historical clarity is needed, going forward we will simply refer to them by their current formal name of GTECH or GTECH SpA here.
To more quickly get to the point we won’t document the path that was taken but only affirm that in May of 2013 GTECH was confirmed to have taken a minority ownership position in Emma Delta joining Greek shipbuilder the Melissanidis Group, and Czech investor Jiri Smejc. Emma Delta bought the Greek government’s 33% stake in OPAP – the Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics S.A. (Greek: ΟΠΑΠ – Οργανισμός Προγνωστικών Αγώνων Ποδοσφαίρου Α.Ε.) a public company based in Athens, Greece that exclusively operates and manages numerical lottery and sports betting games in Greece. In other words they put a lock on the market. As soon as this deal is finalized, any lottery or sports betting in Greece must be done through a GTECH company. The last hurdle was cleared on July 30, 2013.
Fine and well but this reviewer believes we have just seen the first shoe drop in a move for total control of an online gambling market by a company that does not act as if it believes in competition or a free market system. On July 31st we see that the Greek government has issued a blacklist of over 400 casinos. The largest online gambling trade association in the world, the RGA has responded with a press release. The release can be read in its entirety here: RGA Challenges Greek Threat to Interim Gambling Licensees.
The blacklist was expected and was mentioned in a RGA Press Release in 2012 announcing that the RGA had filed a complaint with the European Commission. One element of the complaint was that the planned blacklisting and subsequent market control actions through criminal law enforcement would extend the OPAP monopoly to online gambling – in direct violation of European Union law.
Another element of the complaint was that the Hellenic Commission (Greece) was failing to provide online operators with long term licenses as promised, while extending the OPAP monopoly into the year 2030. Although GTECH did not control the OPAP monopoly through Emma Delta at the time the Greek legislation in question became law, they were a front runner to purchase the Greek government’s stake when acting as Lottomatica. Locking up gambling jurisdictions for 10, 20, even 30 years is a well known GTECH maneuver – usually beginning with state lottery sales control and then extending into “racinos”, Indian gaming, or other de facto monopolies.
The Greek regulations introduced wide-ranging enforcement measures including ISP and payment blocking, fines on banks and internet providers who facilitate gambling and fines on operators who have not been granted a licence.
The announcement of the blacklist and a link to it can currently be found on the Hellenic Gaming Commission home page (Chrome browser will provide English translation). The Blacklist can be found here in PDF format.
We find it slightly interesting that the list is published as an image PDF so it is not searchable except with the naked eye (or OCR) and that the list is not in alphabetical order from beginning to end – did the Greeks not invent the alphabet? We also find it slightly interesting that after 3 visual scans of the list we do not find the one casino we know of that uses GTECH (Boss Media) gaming software exclusively. Please dear reader if you find casinoclub.com on the list or know of other casinos that exclusively use GTECH games, let us know so we can update this article.
Interestingly we didn’t see bet365.gr either and perhaps they have an unannounced license. Interim licences were granted to several monolithic gambling concerns and the “.gr” URL indicates that Bet365 is in compliance at least in part with the Greek laws being questioned by the RGA.
In fact the list is rife with names that make no sense at all. Sure, blacklist Libertyslots because they certainly don’t have a Greek license. But to have 32Red or Mr Green on any list that includes Palaceofchance and their ilk is absolutely absurd. They have even listed poker blogs as “criminal enterprises”. At the very least we are seeing incompetence.
Does anyone else find it interesting that this blacklist was issued on the day after the last GTECH hurdle to controlling the Greek lottery and sports betting markets was announced? It is really no more interesting than the GGC response to GTECH providing flawed games online for almost a decade. However, one must wonder who holds long term Greek online casino licenses, if anybody. And if none or few exist, one could wonder if the space will be filled with online “lottery” games.
Greek players online will tell you that OPAP floods the media there with advertisements for gambling. They will also tell you that the games return between 40% and 60% RTP, which is in line with what US players receive when they play lottery games. This is in stark contrast to the 95%+ players usually enjoy online. No one can tell you what sort of return to player percentages are available to US players at Indian casinos, racinos, or other venues outside of New Jersey or Nevada using Spielo (GTECH) machines, as those games are not regulated to guarantee a minimum return.
Players and other industry participants should not lightly brush off the latest Greek actions in regard to online gambling as something occurring in a devastated economy that will never touch them – most of the mechanations we see (single provider protected by criminal law enforcement, long term 20+ year exclusive contracts, and profit sharing of low RTP games) are common GTECH business tactics used in lottery and land casinos in the US outside of Nevada and New Jersey.
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